As the offseason winds down, we're going to project each position on the Detroit Lions depth chart and also take a look at some training camp battles. Next up is the linebacker position.
Starters: DeAndre Levy (WLB), Stephen Tulloch (MLB), Tahir Whitehead (SLB)
The starters listed above are what the starters were for the Lions going into last season. In Week 3, however, things changed with Stephen Tulloch going down with a torn ACL. Tahir Whitehead moved inside, and he performed quite well in Tulloch's place. DeAndre Levy remained at weakside linebacker, and guys like Josh Bynes and Ashlee Palmer filled in at strongside linebacker.
This year, with Tulloch once again healthy, the trio of starters is pretty straightforward. Tulloch is going to reclaim his spot in the middle, allowing Whitehead to slide back outside to the strongside linebacker role. Levy, meanwhile, is still manning things over on the weak side.
Backups: Josh Bynes, Kyle Van Noy, Travis Lewis | Other players: Julian Stanford, Brandon Copeland, Jerrell Harris, Kevin Snyder
The main backups at linebacker are Bynes and Kyle Van Noy because of their potential contributions on defense. Van Noy in particular is someone to watch, as the Lions will hopefully be able to expand his role in his sophomore year in the league. An injury derailed his rookie season, but now is the time to let Van Noy do more on defense, at least as a pass rusher. As for Bynes, he is just a solid backup for multiple spots at linebacker, and chances are that skill set will get him on the field in 2015.
Assuming there is one other spot up for grabs at linebacker, it will ultimately go to the top special teams contributor, which is why I have Travis Lewis making the 53-man roster. Julian Stanford and Brandon Copeland look like potential candidates for that spot as well, but the Lions have kept Lewis in the past because of his skills on special teams, and right now I don't expect things to be any different this year. As a result, Stanford and Copeland are on the outside looking in and Jerrell Harris and Kevin Snyder are left competing for a spot on the practice squad.
Featured camp battle: Tahir Whitehead vs. Kyle Van Noy vs. Josh Bynes for the starting SLB job
Other camp battles to watch: Travis Lewis vs. Julian Stanford vs. Brandon Copeland for the final spot at linebacker
Things look relatively straightforward at linebacker, but then again, last year Whitehead wasn't even viewed as someone competing for a starting spot. He changed that notion quite quickly with a strong training camp, so we shouldn't completely rule out guys like Van Noy or Bynes at strongside linebacker.
Farther down on the depth chart, Lewis will have to hold off at least Stanford and Copeland to make the team. As mentioned above, special teams will likely be the deciding factor in this camp battle, although I suppose it will be necessary for these players to at least show some kind of an ability to contribute on defense as well.